Dybala leads early Juve blitz to expose United’s limitations

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Dybala leads early Juve blitz to expose United’s limitations

Manchester United 0 Juventus 1


Juventus’s Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Juventus’s Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

History tells us that there have been many times over the years when a Manchester United team have fallen short of the standards that Juventus have set but on those occasions there has often been a mood at least that the gulf in class is just a temporary problem to be overcome in time.

This one, however, felt very different for Jose Mourinho‘s United of 2018, playing a club that has been a finalist in two of the previous four Champions League seasons and more than capable of coming to enemy territory and running the show.

If you want to know how Mourinho felt about this one then by the end he was sufficiently fed up to hold three fingers to the Juventus fans to remind them, presumably, of Inter Milan’s 2010 treble under him.

On the pitch, his side had been out-thought and out-passed by a superior football operation who controlled the game and defended like the pitiless warriors they can be when they are at their best. Cristiano Ronaldo did not score this time, but he did play a major part in Paulo Dybala’s first half goal, and had it not been for David De Gea then one suspects that we would have witnessed the only muted goal celebration in the CR7 repertoire.

United were beaten by the grown-ups in the Juventus midfield who between them passed and moved around the system that Mourinho had set up to stop them. Rodrigo Bentancur, Miralem Pjanic and Dybala, dropping in from the No 10 position, were the architects of this Juventus occupation.

There was nothing that United could do about it, even Paul Pogba who was part of this Juventus team until £89 million brought him to Old Trafford and a team that still is nowhere near as effective as the one he left.



Juventus' Joao Cancelo in action with Manchester United's Anthony Martial. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via ReutersJuventus' Joao Cancelo in action with Manchester United's Anthony Martial. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

Juventus’ Joao Cancelo in action with Manchester United’s Anthony Martial. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

It was Ronaldo who was applauded off at the end, the third pitch invader of the night intercepted on his way to the former United man and then the No 7 stopping to applaud in the centre of the pitch to those home fans that remained in the stadium.

The ex-players used to get that treatment out of sympathy in the old days, recognition that they had left the great force of British and European football, but Ronaldo now stirs feelings of better days and better teams.

United ended the night with just 39 per cent possession and one wonders what will happen in Turin on November 7. They remain second in Group H by virtue of Valencia’s draw with Young Boys. Three games in and the leaders are Juventus with three wins and not even a single goal conceded.

The possession count was as high as 78 per cent in favour of the team from Italy at one point in the first half and by the break the apathy count in Old Trafford was reaching similar levels. Ronaldo was back on their turf but it was Juventus’s great machine in midfield that was making the home team look so ordinary.



Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho jumps to avoid Federico Bernardeschi of Juventus during last night’s Champions League clash. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty ImagesManchester United boss Jose Mourinho jumps to avoid Federico Bernardeschi of Juventus during last night’s Champions League clash. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho jumps to avoid Federico Bernardeschi of Juventus during last night’s Champions League clash. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

It would be right to say that Juventus ran the show but they did it so easily, with a general economy of effort that made United’s place in the general scheme of things look rather small. Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic were nowhere near either Rodrigo Bentancur or Dybala who were the most effective players in the first half, and all that with Ronaldo operating from the left side in Ashley Young’s general direction.

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Bentancur, a 21-year-old Uruguayan, started every game for his country at this summer’s World Cup finals, and he has an understanding of the game beyond his years. He set the tempo for Juventus’s play and Dybala offered the creative force in the middle, although there was no one anywhere near the latter when he stroked in the first half goal.

Pursuit

That was one of the few times that Ronaldo made his way out to the right side, getting away from Anthony Martial who was in pursuit and accelerating into the area that Victor Lindelof might have chosen to occupy. The cross was deflected and Chris Smalling did well to get it away from Juan Cuadrado but there was no one to stop Dybala who had followed the ball in unsupervised.



Manchester United's Anthony Martial skips past Juventus' Miralem Pjanic. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA WireManchester United's Anthony Martial skips past Juventus' Miralem Pjanic. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Manchester United’s Anthony Martial skips past Juventus’ Miralem Pjanic. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

It was a tough shift for Young against Ronaldo, who looked sharp and inventive in his running off the ball. Although there were no big first half chances for him in the run of play, he did win a free-kick in the left channel. That one he slapped with his laces to give De Gea a difficult one to judge. The United goalkeeper settled for blocking that shot and punching away the follow-up from Blaise Matuidi.

It was not the chances themselves, there will always be those for a poacher like Ronaldo, it was the absence of anything at the other end. In that direction United just looked lost in the first half. Romelu Lukaku was being shepherded away by the toughest defensive partnership in Italy and aside from one run that Marcus Rashford launched not much else was going on.

There was precious little bounce in the second half either, and Mourinho retreated to the seats. The problem was how capable the Juventus defence looked, never more so than when Martial chased a promising ball into the area and Leonardo Bonucci dispossessed him with the kind of sliding tackle that lesser mortals might have considered reckless.

Otherwise it was mainly just a relief for United that they went into the final 20 minutes of the game only a goal behind. There was hope among the home team that the momentum could carry them forward in the latter stages with the crowd behind them.

De Gea had made a crucial save from Ronaldo on 52 minutes. The home team survived that and finally rallied in the closing stages of the game. Pogba hit the post but that was it and Mourinho’s reaction to a mis-control from Lukaku told you everything you needed to know about his feelings. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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